After three years of steep utility rate increases for Durango residents, their average bill might level off next year.
The Durango City Council was weighing 3 percent increases to water and sewer rates next year and on Thursday decided not to raise water rates.
The average resident would have paid between $1 and $4, Assistant City Manager Amber Blake said.
The council discussed every department’s spending at an all-day meeting and will continue holding budget meetings until early December.
Mayor Dick White asked his fellow councilors if they would be interested in delaying a water rate increase because the water fund has a healthy savings and a backlog of projects.
“Deferring that increase, at least for now, I think is reasonable,” he said.
City residents have seen double-digit water and sewer rate increases for several years to pay for deferred maintenance across both systems.
The city expects to spend $11.7 million on 47 water projects that are underway, according to a presentation prepared for the Utilities Commission.
These infrastructure investments include water line replacements, a new water tank, improvements at the water intake on the Florida River, a drought plan and expansion of the city’s reservoir, among other projects.
The 2018 budget includes nine additional projects estimated to cost about $2.8 million.
The city expects to spend $70 million on the 17 ongoing sewer system projects; most of this funding is needed for the Santa Rita Water Treatment Facility.
Five more sewer projects are proposed in the 2018 budget.
The city expects to hire a project manager next year to focus on the water and sewer projects, excluding the wastewater-treatment plant construction in Santa Rita Park.
“I think the project manager is going to help us take a bite out of that list,” City Manager Ron LeBlanc said at a Utilities Commission meeting earlier this week.
One of the major water projects next year will be replacing all of the city’s residential and commercial water meters, City Operations Director Levi Lloyd said.
The new meters, estimated to cost $1.2 million, will be able to be read remotely through a radio system and will help save staff members’ time, he said.
The city also expects to increase the number of residential water meters from around 5,400 to 6,500 in 2018 because some older lots and homes in the city were subdivided and the new home didn’t receive a new meter.
“We anticipate we are going find a lot of people on shared meters,” Lloyd said.
Breaking up those systems will ensure that residents receive accurate bills, he said.
email@example.comThis story has been updated to correct the amount of money residents would have paid for a water-rate increase. The new numbers give a more accurate range of increase residents could have paid.